After Kyndal Wiltbank caught her breath, she reflected on what she had just accomplished at the Nick Martin Memorial Invitational.

“It was definitely a test of the mind to be able to push through to the end,” Wiltbank said.

Wiltbank, a Moriarty sophomore, was among 226 runners from 18 different high schools who converged on the Vista Grande Community Complex in Sandia Park on Sept. 24 for the largest annual cross country meet in the area. Runners from Moriarty, East Mountain and Estancia high schools competed.

Wiltbank powered her way to a third-place finish in the girls varsity race with a time of 23:55.16. Wiltbank’s teammate, Rachel Gustafson, crossed the line 13 seconds later to post a fourth-place finish. Ashtyn Walter placed 11th and Jolie Chavez came in 21st, rounding out Moriarty’s top 25 runners whose strong performances helped the girls team take second place overall with 62 points, behind first place Cottonwood Classical Prep at 35 points.

Wiltbank, in a field of 85 runners, started among a large group clumped together but broke away and maintained the third position throughout the rest of the race.

The course is a challenge, starting and ending on the Vista Grande soccer field and meandering two laps through the woods behind the high school and the community center. There is a long, grueling hill at the end of each lap the runners must climb twice. For many of the runners, the focus shifts from clocking a fast time to just finishing the course.

Wiltbank’s first response was that she had done “pretty well.” Then she added: “There are parts [of the course] where you can curve around and you can see the people behind you, so I was just making sure to stay ahead of them—I just knew I had to dig in and pump my arms to get through it.”

East Mountain’s top finisher was freshman Ruth Trullinger, running her first-ever Nick Martin race and placing 24th.

“I’m very satisfied cuz it’s such a hilly race,” Trullinger said.

Three other East Mountain girls, Jessie Liebold, Verity Gray, and Ashley Sesnie finished in the top 30 to help the team capture third place with 121 points.

Estancia’s Alana Sosa finished 45th, helping the Lady Bears grab 10th place as a team, which pleased head coach Adrienne Pierce.

“This is the first race this season where I have all of my girls running,” Pierce said.

In the boys varsity race, with a field of 86 runners, Moriarty’s Herman Archibeque led the pack at the start and was pacing fourth after the first mile and the first climb up the big hill.

Archibeque slipped to fifth place during the second lap and finished sixth at 19:33.01.

Moriarty’s Kyndal Wiltbank eyeing the final stretch at the Nick Martin Invite, Sept. 24, 2022. Photo by Ger Demarest.

“Yeah, so, going up that hill the first time, my legs were tired, but by the time I got up for that second climb my legs were gone, they were cooked, so that’s when I fell off a little bit,” Archibeque said, adding, “It’s a hard course, definitely, all those hills and bumps, it’s probably one of the harder courses that we’ll run this year.”

Moriarty’s Tobias Olson and Bruno Vaquera placed 15th and 16th, respectively, helping the Pintos place third with 86 team points.

“We took care of business, these guys ran hard,” Moriarty head coach Nicholas Arellano said. “This is all to get ready for district in Taos and then state.”

Skylar Reilly was East Mountain’s top finisher at 19th followed by teammate Andre LaJeunesse at 22nd. The Timberwolves placed sixth with 160 team points.

“The team did really good, it’s a hard course, so all in all, I’m happy,” East Mountain head coach Danielle Duncan said.

Michael Johnson was Estancia’s top finisher at 51st. Estancia’s boys didn’t place as a team, but Pierce said she was pleased with how both her boys and girls teams performed.

“Their times were where I expected them to be and they all did exactly what I asked them to do,” Pierce said. “This is just a glorified practice for us to get ready for district.”

Moriarty’s Nathan McMurtrey won the boys JV race. There were also 70 middle school runners who competed in a youth race and more than 20 adults who participated in a fundraiser run/walk prior to the high school races.

East Mountain High School hosts the annual Nick Martin Memorial Invite, named in honor of Nick Martin, an East Mountain runner who passed away in 2010 at the age of 16.